Shristi J. - Diagnosed at age 25
I woke up one morning with an aching elbow. I thought I’d wait a few days for it to go away, but the pain didn’t subside. After I realized I had difficulty lifting my arm, I decided to visit a doctor. After running a couple of tests that showed no signs, I was sent home. After a few weeks, my joints started hurting. I was down with a fever every time I stepped outside. In a few days I was bedridden. The doctors failed to make a diagnosis. After a year, the doctor suspected lupus and I was diagnosed in 2010.
My path towards acceptance was clear, "I have lupus, but lupus doesn’t have me”, I proudly proclaimed. I never looked sick. This year I was also diagnosed with Raynaud’s phenomenon and Sjogren’s syndrome (dry eyes and mouth, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes). My voice changed, I had difficulty swallowing and my sense of taste was totally altered. The medications started taking a toll on me. Bald patches on my head, blurry vision, anxiety attacks, mood instability, insomnia, memory loss, confusion, loss of words, inability to comprehend and make decisions - I had them all. This “invisible illness” created a sense of shame and despair in the way it made me feel like it had stolen my life from me.
After undergoing more treatment, eventually the pain subsided and the medicines worked. My family was my biggest source of support. They reminded me of my strengths when I had shut myself from the world. Over time I slowly found myself. I now find myself in new discoveries about my identity every day and I realize that this is what I needed all along. I needed to pause, step back and find myself. I needed to let go to find me. I got that through lupus. I’ve never been more grateful to be living the exact life I’ve lived because without them I wouldn’t be me.
For those who are trudging a similar path, this is a reminder that we’re not alone. While this journey can be full of disappointments and heartbreaks for us and our loved ones, take time to tend to your soul and affirm yourself even during moments when hope is distant. It isn’t something that you have to prove. Healing happens through you; healing is yours and your healing is for you.